It’s easy to feel like the sooner you can accomplish something, the better. It’s easy to get wrapped up in stories you tell yourself about how wonderful and amazing it would be to have done such-and-such a thing at such-and-such an age. But more than any of that, it’s easy to get so carried away by your big dreams and ambitions that you forget about pacing. You forget about timing. You forget that your career is not something you have to finish in a year. It’s something you have to maintain for a lifetime.
There’s no better analogy for this than the simplest one you can imagine: your career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Exhausting yourself to reach the next goalpost isn’t going to be helpful in the long-run, when you’re injured and tired and have to tap out for the next however long in order to recover. The thing about sprinting is that it seems like you’ve gotten farther initially, when really, the energy it takes to exhaust your every resource ends up costing you more time in the long-run.
You cannot forget that your career is not something separate from you, it is you. The success of it has almost nothing to do with how far past your breaking point you are willing to push yourself, and almost everything to do with how much you learn, how quickly you adapt, and how skilled you become. That is what’s going to carry you through to the end.
The thing about running a marathon is that it’s not something you wake up one day and effortlessly complete. It takes training. It takes months, sometimes years, to condition yourself and to know the physiological limits that you have to respect and work with. Running a sprint might make you ambitious, but running a marathon requires that you become a master.
And that’s almost exactly what your career is asking you to do, too. When you do something quickly, but poorly, you end up paying for it in the long-run. When you work even though you’re exhausted or keep pushing though you know you’re completely past your breaking point, you end up holding yourself back. Because what you do in a state of exhaustion and frustration is never going to be your best, and if you aren’t consistently contributing your best work to your career, it’s not going to get as far as you’d like it to.
So remember that just as much as it is important to strategize and visualize and plan and push, it is also just as essential to rest, recoup, rethink, take time off, and also tend to your health and wellness and life. Your career is not an entity separate from your being, one that you must contribute to constantly to keep alive. It is an extension of you, it is part of you, and the better you are as a whole, the greater it will be, too.